I never thought I would say it, but I really enjoy studying geography with my children. I’m excited that we will be studying U.S. geography this next year (in Classical Conversation’s Cycle 3) and wanted to share some activities and resources we will be using.
Simple activities we will do (besides tracing U.S. maps throughout the year):
Keep blank U.S. maps in the van. We love to keep a pad of blank U.S. maps in the van for playing the license plate game. The kids each have their own map and color in new state’s plates throughout the day on a road trip. Sometimes, we will even have the children name the state capitol before they can color in a state. In fact, on a multi-day road trip, we often use a new map per day. I know I could just print them out from the computer, but if you get to go to a homeschool convention, Millers Pads and Paper is cheaper and easier than printing them yourself (they have blank maps of the world, U.S. maps, and specific continents). My children have really remembered their states from the last time we did Cycle 3 because of this.
Point out geographic features you see. When we cross a river or mountain range that is part of their memory work (or even ones that aren’t), we try to point it out or stop and look. We play disc golf sometimes near an old canal in the Pennsylvania canal system and drive past the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal on our way to visit family. Our kids always love to drive through the Appalachian Mountains on the way to visit their grandparents. This summer we’ll be traveling south to Arkansas and will be able to see some of the major mountain ranges as well as the Mississippi River (something my children are exciting about). Just noticing what’s around us helps the kids (and myself) make connections.
U.S. Puzzles are always fun. If you are looking to buy one, you might want to try for one that the puzzle pieces are cut along state lines like The United States of America 100 Piece Puzzle. This really has helped us recognize state shapes as well. (The puzzle we have that I pictured was bought at Borders on a clearance table 3 years ago so I couldn’t find the same one to link to.)
Some great books for when we are interested in more information:
Our 50 States is a fun book about the states that make up our country. The book roughly follows a family traveling through the U.S., but you do not have to read it in order. There are 2 pages for each state with lots of fun facts, historical information, quotes, and landmarks. The “trip” part includes little messages from the children to their grandparents or friends describing what they did in that state. I really can’t imagine our family actually getting to visit all 50 states, but with books like this, we can at least learn more about the states and their differences. I love all the history with each state and the fact that there are so many drawings and little tidbits of information on every page. I got this book from the library, but I am considering buying it since it is one that would be nice to go to over and over again.
Discover America State by State Series is a fun series of picture books that I can get at the library. My children really enjoy these books and like to learn about the different states. We will probably get out the states they want to read about this summer as part of our summer reading (especially states we will travel to this summer). Each book has a title like P is for Peace Garden about North Dakota or F is for First State about Delaware. I would love to hear from people who have read their own state’s book to see if they think the books are accurate depictions.
United States Coloring Book is one that we used the last time we went through Cycle 3. The kids enjoyed the coloring and tracing the outlines of the states. I actually bought a different state coloring book for this year just to switch things up, but really any U.S. coloring book would work for this. Both books show little facts about each state.
Two other books I found at the library (that were maybe a bit more light-hearted about the states were Celebrate The 50 States! and Go, Go America: 50 States of Fun. The cartoon drawings are fun in these two books. Go, Go America has mostly wacky facts where Celebrate the 50 States! has a bit more history (and some quirky facts as well).
What fun activities or books do you like to use to study U.S. geography?
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